Does Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Start in the Cradle?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Next City

"For a brief moment in time nearly 30 years before the American Civil War, black residents in Washington, D.C., who’d been freed from slavery had to pay the local government a $1,000 bond to secure their freedom. They also had to collect signatures from five white witnesses to guarantee their entry into the citizenry. And for the few that could afford the cost of freedom — $1,000 back then would amount to about $33,000 today, an incredible price tag for a population that had negative economic worth — the only jobs freed slaves could legally hold were as carriage or cart drivers.

"The tendencies of slavery-era U.S., and the decades thereafter of policies and practices that kept black populations out of practically every social and economic dialogue at the metropolitan level, are put beneath the spotlight in a new report that focuses on the way wealth is divided by race in Washington, D.C."

"It’s called 'The Color of Wealth in the Nation’s Capital,' and it’s part three of a series of six reports that will be funded by the Ford Foundation and carried out by organizations like Duke University, the Urban Institute, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, The New School and others. (Next City receives funding from the Ford Foundation.) The first two reports focused on Los Angeles and Boston with the same intent: revealing how minority residents in these cities are struggling to make ends meet because of the color of their skin.

"The report touches on homeownership in D.C., noting that black-owned houses are typically valued at two-thirds the price of white and Latino-owned households, at $250,000. It also touches on liquid assets, with black households averaging $2,100 in immediately available funds if pressed by an emergency, while whites averaged $65,000."

"When education gets taken into consideration, disparities are still well-defined. White families in D.C. headed by someone with a college degree have an average net worth of $258,000, while black families headed by someone with a bachelor’s degree have a net worth of negative $19,000 on average."

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